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Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to grow bougainvillea from cutting

How to grow bougainvillea from a cutting

I am not a professional gardener but someone who enjoys pottering in the garden. Sometimes friends and passersby would stop to gaze at the bougainvilleas and ask, “How do you manage to get that lovely bloom?”
So, I thought I’ll share the little I know about growing this plant. Actually there is no secret formula.

Cascading blooms


1. Choose a cutting from a free flowering variety. This is important as it will ensure that you get more blooms rather than leaves.
2. Get about 6 inches long cutting from a matured stem.
3. Strip the leaves from the cutting.
4. Dip the root side of the cutting in rooting powder.(optional)
5. Insert about a third of the stem in a pot filled with potting soil.
6. Stabilise the cutting and water the soil. It is important not to disturb the cutting during the growing period.
7. Leave it in the shade for about a month for it to root.
8. Transfer it to a bigger pot. Once stabilised it must be placed in a sunny place. Bougainvillea requires plenty of sun to provide you with that beautiful blooms.
1. If you intend to plant bougainvillea in a big pot, place the pot on bricks or hollow brick blocks to prevent the roots from growing into the ground. If the roots grow into the ground the plant may produce more leaves than flowers.
2. Water regularly and fertilise it once a month. Loosen the soil to aerate the roots.

Hope the information is useful. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Night of the hungry ghosts

Night of the hungry ghosts
by Wan Chwee SengThe heady fragrance of incense that mingled with the acrid smell of burnt joss papers wafted across the night air to the neon-lit apartment’s living room. From a nearby makeshift stage came the deafening blare of music that was certain to wake up the livings and probably the dead. It was the night of the hungry ghost festival and a concert , known locally as ‘getai’ was being staged to entertain both the dead and the livings.

A 'getai' performance

On that day, the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, the local Taoists and Buddhists believe the gates of the lower realm will be opened to allow the wandering spirits to wander the earth in search of food and entertainment.

From high above the apartment’s window at Toh Yi Drive, Singapore I noticed a fairly large crowd had already occupied most of the seats in front of the brightly-lit stage, however, the front row remained vacant. These seats, I was told, were specially reserved for the ‘honoured guests‘. With the din, glaring light and incessant flow of traffic I wondered if they would be filled.

As I gazed with interest at the scene below me, I recalled a story  my elder brother told us about an incident that involved him and our cousin, Fook, during the night of the hungry ghosts. 

It was the mid-fifties and we were then living in the small village of Batu Berendam, Melaka. Six wooden houses with palm-thatched roofs that stood a few hundred metres apart constituted our neighbourhood. A dirt track, flanked by dense undergrowth and towering palm trees, ran from our house to the narrow main road. Darkness came fast to this village as electricity had yet to come to our village. On the night of the hungry ghost festival, as soon as dusk set in, the children were hastily ushered into the houses and we were warned not to venture outside as the wandering spirits which could assume human or animal forms, we were told, would lure us away and those who were not rescued on time could even be spirited to the netherworld at the end of the seventh moon.

So, as obedient children we sat in the dimly-lit room and peered through the half-opened window at the darkness beyond while our young minds conjured ghostly images. Unknown to us, my brother and Fook had slipped quietly out of the house and made their way to the village Chinese temple located about half a kilometre away. The temple which stood on a low hill was already brightly-lit up with Chinese lanterns and red candles while the greyish smoke of joss sticks in incense burners plumed skywards, filling the night air with their fragrance. Before the effigy of the ’King of Hell’ was an altar on which was placed various food offerings together with miniature paper items and joss paper

Food offerings

My brother and Fook joined in the night's festivities with the mostly adult devotees.. At last content with the excitement of the night, they decided to sneak home before anyone noticed their absence .

When they emerged from the temple, darkness had already enveloped the countryside. Although there was no street light, the road before them was clearly visible as above them an August moon shone brightly in a cloudless sky. As they trudged along the deserted road all they could hear was the sound of their own footsteps and the incessant hums of the myriad insects. From within the few wooden shops at the road junction only the faint glow of oil lamps could be seen through the cracks of the wooden walls. The residents were either at the temple or had retired for the night.

The moment they turned onto the dirt track leading to the house, they began to tread gingerly as the path was pitted with potholes and they had to be wary of snakes that were fond of basking in the warmth of the path. 

Suddenly, a slight movement in front of them caught their attention. A murky shape straddled their path. They stopped dead on their track. As their eyes adjusted to the pallid light, they saw something that sent a chill down their spines. Hundreds of ‘snakes’ blocked their path. The mass of writhing, glistening serpentine bodies were endlessly criss-crossing the only path that led to the house

'Snakes' criss-crossing their path

Mustering all their courage they leapt across the snake-liked shapes, sprinted the few metres to the house and burst breathlessly into the safety of the house. Brother was not affected by the night's incident, but Fook was taken ill and had to seek the help of Ali Mat, the village shaman, whose holy water was a panacea for all illness.

Worried that they would be reprimanded for disobedience, they kept the night‘s incident to themselves. It was only years later that they told us about the incident. Today, more than fifty years on, they still remember vividly that night _ the night of the hungry ghosts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our family vacation at Singapore East Coast Resort

Our family vacation at Singapore East Coast Resort

A moment to remember
On a sunny and breezy morning my grandchildren, Audrey and Ethan went to the nearby beach with their grandma. While Audrey was happily building sand castles near the water edge, Ethan was busy scooping sand into a pail under the watchful eyes of her grandma. As Ethan addressed her and his maternal grandma as 'popo', she wanted to teach him to call her grandma. "Call, grandma", she said. Ethan continued digging at the sand and paid scant attention to her. When we were in a car heading towards a food court, Ethan suddenly gazed up at her grandma and in a conspiratorial voice whispered 'Grandma'. He beamed her an impish smile and a satisfying dimpled smile radiated from her face. They hugged each other, a grandmother and grandson, bonded by a single word. 'Grandma'.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah: Reminiscences of schooldays

Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah: Reminiscences of schooldays
by Wan Chwee Seng

“TUANKU MUHAMMAD SCHOOL!” The sudden shout that rose from the car rear’s seat snapped me out of my reverie. As the car swung through the unmanned gate, I caught sight of the school in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan where my brother, Chwee Guan, and I had our early education in the late forties and early fifties.

Tuanku Muhammad School in 1946

The car came to a halt next to the school canteen and we set foot once again on the school-ground of our youth. Excited children were milling around the canteen, as they waited anxiously for their SPM results.
 That December morning of 2008 as our eyes fell on  familiar landmarks , they evoked a montage of memories that had lain dormant for more than fifty years.
I gazed at the hill behind the school building and my mind drifted to that day long ago when we used to start our cross country run from the top of the hill. The hill which was clad in verdant foliage was also a favourite meeting place for the school cubs. We would make dens from the ubiquitous creeping ferns and I remember the enjoyable nights when we sat around the campfire; singing, playing games and sharing stories.  

My brother, Chwee Guan, at the school's corridor

I peeped into one of the empty classrooms and my mind drifted to a particular morning just after the Second World War.
 We had risen early that morning with that typical feeling of excitement and anticipation of kids who were about to begin a new school‘s term. Out on the front lawn in the wan glow of a breaking dawn, a rickshaw puller with his rickety rickshaw was waiting for us.

A rickshaw puller waiting in front of
the house

I stared at the unfamiliar contraption with a twinge of apprehension as I recalled tales of rickshaw pullers ‘accidentally’ losing grip of the rickshaw’s shafts. The unfortunate passengers we were told would be sent sprawling backward with arms and legs flailing wildly in the air. As we clambered onto the high seat, we eyed the puller with suspicion.

Residential Area, Kuala Pilah
Fortunately, there were no untoward incident during that morning trip and on subsequent trips. We felt a sense of relief when we were finally allowed to join our friends from the Residential Area on our daily walk to and from school.

I remember the many mornings when I would stroll leisurely with my friends, Kok Wee, Nathaniel, Leo, Chelvarajah, Subramaniam and others along the side lanes of stilt-raised colonial houses and follow a hard-beaten dirt track that meandered off towards the distant school.
Primary school classmates. Photo courtesy
of Dr. Aaron Yong

On the first morning we were grouped together with some over-aged pupils who had been deprived of an education because of the War. The War had also left the school with a shortage of desks and chairs and so we had to sit cross-legged on the cold cement floor. Our first teacher was a young Miss Wong who taught us letters of the alphabet written on a blackboard which rested on a wooden easel. We were later made to copy the letters onto a book-sized writing slates with the aid of slate pencils.

The strident clang of a brass bell signalled the start of recess. We stretched our tired limbs and after being taught to queue up we followed timorously behind Miss Wong as she guided us to the school canteen. As the War had left many of us malnourished, each pupil was provided with two pieces of bland biscuits and a glass of plain milk.

I remember our first reader was ‘Look and Read’, which had a dark green, fabric cover. The lessons were mostly about the different occupations of the day such as the ‘Ting-Ting Man’ (the itinerant haberdasher), the fowl seller, and the cake seller. Our English lesson included spelling and dictation, and recitation of poems. We had to commit to memory the many poems and later recite them in front of the class without faltering or else a gentle tap of the ruler would land on the palm. Nobody dared to complain to their parents then as this would be an open invitation for further parental discipline. For Arithmetic besides the usual written exercises we also had to memorise the multiplication tables and we also had mental sums when we were expected to add, subtract, multiply and divide mentally. .
That December morning of 2008, as we stood on the step overlooking the field, I recalled the Monday morning assembly when we had to stand to attention and sing ‘God save the King'.

On the steps overlooking the field

“Can you see the cricket pitch?” I asked my brother as our eyes scanned the field which was covered with ankle-high grass. It was sadly missing. I remember the well-manicured cricket pitch where my elder brother and his friends used to bat and bowl while I kept score for a game that lasted from morn to dusk.

The leafy hedge that used to enclose three sides of the field and fronted by angsana trees planted at regular intervals had been replaced by a solid brick wall. Only a few angsana trees with gnarled trunks and virtually bare branches stood pathetically beside a covered stand. I remember the evenings when we used to have our hockey practice under the shade of the stately angsana trees with their thick, spreading canopy. We did not wear watches then. We played until the hockey ball was a blur in the deepening darkness and then we knew it was time to head for home.
“That’s the school’s hostel,” my brother said as he called attention to a building that stood on a low tapering hillside. While others in the group gazed at the building I gave it a cursory glance as the sight had rekindled a long-forgotten incident. One recess we were playing the game of hide-and-seek when I accidentally strayed to the back of the hostel. As I pushed through the dense undergrowth, I found myself standing at the edge of a partially covered hole half-obscured by a tangled mass of vegetation. The hole was ringed by an unusually luxuriant growth of ixora with a profusion of colours. An eerie silence enveloped the place and I sensed an invisible presence. A sudden fear gripped me. With pounding heart I scrambled and bashed through the dense thickets until I reached the safety and security of my friends. After school I related the incident to mother and was reprimanded for playing behind the hostel.
“Don’t you know that’s the place where the unfortunate war victims were buried during the war,” she said. Later as I listened to our hostel friends recounting their encounters with headless apparitions in the dead of the night, I shuddered at the thought of the morning’s incident.
As the car eased out of the school’s gate, I glanced back to take another look at the school which held so many fond memories.

Related articles: Click below links

In days past

Finding our way home